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House of Commons Hansard #80 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.

Topics

Green Municipal FundsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Avalon Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

R. John Efford LiberalMinister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2), I am pleased to table, in both official languages, the Green Municipal Funds annual report of 2003-04.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 49 petitions.

Criminal CodeRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-361, an act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal interest rate).

Mr. Speaker, more than 1 million Canadians each year regularly use payday lenders and another 1.4 million use high interest rate lenders at a great cost to their families and to their standard of living. Once hidden charges are accounted for, the effective rates on those payday loans exceed 50% despite much lower interest rates in the mainstream financial sector.

Banks have abandoned the small loans business on the grounds that it is not profitable enough, so many of these individuals who take these loans have no alternative.

I am very pleased to table today this private member's bill with the objective to protect consumers and their families from abusive and usurious lending practices by amending section 347 of the Criminal Code to reduce the definition of criminal interest rates in half from 60% to 35% above the official Bank of Canada rate.

The bill would also broaden the definition of interest to include the calculation of hidden charges paid by a person to obtain insurance coverage.

The bill addresses an important issue that affects families in many parts of Canada and I hope that it will receive broad support from the House.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Canadian Forces Superannuation ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Werner Schmidt Conservative Kelowna, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-362, an act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act (marriage after the age of sixty years).

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of veterans, like Gordon Read of Kelowna and their families, I am pleased to table a bill to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act.

The bill would remove section 31(1) which prevents spouses who marry veterans after the age of 60 from receiving the veterans pension upon their death. It is wrong to penalize veterans and their families simply because they choose to marry later in life. This policy is outdated and there is no rationalization for the disqualification.

2005 is the year of the veteran. Veterans have given our country so much. I hope my colleagues will support the bill, support veterans and their families and show veterans just how grateful we are.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Conservative Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the petition I present today is one of many that I have received on the subject of marriage.

The petitioners draw to the attention of the House the fact that marriage is the best foundation for families and the raising of children, that the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman is being challenged and therefore ask Parliament to pass legislation to recognize the institution of marriage in federal law as being the lifelong union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

I note, in conclusion, that this petition is entirely consistent with Conservative Party policy.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present today.

The first is a petition calling on the federal government not to join U.S. President George Bush's missile defence shield. This is evidently a very popular position in Quebec.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition I want to present was circulated by the Canadian Coalition for Democracies and calls for the recall and dismissal of Yvon Charbonneau as Canadian Ambassador to UNESCO because of his various positions on international policy, in the Middle East in particular.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg, QC

Mr. Speaker, the last petition I am presenting was launched by Benoît Dutrizac, a broadcaster from radio station 98.5 FM in Montreal, who filed an excellent report on Télé-Québec on assisted suicide and the right to die with dignity. The petition calls on this Parliament and this government to initiate a discussion on assisted suicide and the right to die with dignity so that those wanting this right can exercise it.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the pleasure to present a petition signed by 28 people from the greater Toronto area and sent to me by constituents in my riding of Etobicoke Centre.

The petitioners pray and request that Parliament increase the quotas for parental sponsorship admissions and reduce the processing times of sponsorship applications with respect to immigration.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Werner Schmidt Conservative Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present a petition on behalf of my constituents who pray that Parliament pass legislation to recognize the institution of marriage in federal law as being a lifelong union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

It is a pleasure for me to assist these petitioners and support them in their petition.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand today and present two petitions on behalf of my constituents from the Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre riding and members from Regina Beach, Buena Vista, Moose Jaw and Regina proper.

Both these petitions deal with the definition of marriage and, more specifically, the desire of the petitioners to let the decision on civil marriage be determined by members of Parliament and not unelected judges and that the members of Parliament choose to retain the current definition of marriage, that being the traditional definition of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Conservative Calgary South Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour today to rise and present a petition on behalf of the constituents of Calgary Centre who believe that it is parents and not the government who is in the best position to determine which type of child care best suits their children and leaves more money in the pockets of parents to spend as they see fit rather than a government run day care system.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present three petitions to the House today.

The first petition is on the definition of marriage. It has been signed by a number of Canadians, including from my riding of Mississauga South.

The petitioners would simply like to draw to the House that marriage is defined as the lifelong union of one man and one woman and is the best foundation for families and raising children. They also point out that it is the exclusive jurisdiction of Parliament to define marriage.

They therefore call upon Parliament to define marriage in federal law as being the lifelong union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is on the subject matter of veterans.

The petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House that veterans and electoral residents from the province of New Brunswick want the House to be aware that the Canadian Forces has plans to remove the Maltese Cross from the hat badge of Canada's military chaplains because it now has one Muslim chaplain.

The petitioners therefore call upon Parliament to cause the armed forces to retain the badge of honour for its military chaplains and devise another method to recognize non-Christian chaplains when so employed.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the final petition is on the issue of the notwithstanding clause under the charter.

The petitioners would like to draw to the attention of the House that the majority of Canadians believe that fundamental matters of social policy should be decided by elected members of Parliament and not by the unelected judiciary.

They therefore call upon Parliament to use all possible legislative and administrative measures, including the invocation of section 33 of the charter, commonly known as the notwithstanding clause, to preserve and protect the current definition of marriage which is the legal union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of numerous constituents and other Canadians who are concerned with an issue dealt with of late in the House. It pertains to fetal alcohol syndrome. The petitioners believe it is important to put labels on all alcohol beverage containers indicating that drinking during pregnancy can cause birth defects. They are concerned that the government has failed to respond to the wishes of the Canadian population and parliamentarians and ask for immediate and urgent action.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Beauséjour New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Willowdale Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Liberalfor the Minister of Finance

moved that Bill C-43, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Scarborough—Guildwood Ontario

Liberal

John McKay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to introduce the 2005 budget implementation act at second reading. This is all about the government delivering on its commitments. That has been the theme of this year's budget and indeed it is the theme of the bill before us today.

Canadians expect the government to take major steps to deliver on our commitments and that is exactly what we have done. I hope over the next few minutes to demonstrate that this is exactly what we have done.

In the 2005 budget we have set out an ambitious agenda to promote national well-being, centring on five mutually reinforcing commitments: first, maintaining sound fiscal management; second, encouraging a productive and growing economy; third, securing our social foundations; fourth, promoting sustainable environment and communities; and fifth, strengthening Canada's role in the world. As I said, I hope that these five mutually reinforcing commitments will become obvious over the course of the next few minutes.

Proposals contained in the bill take major steps to deliver on these commitments, with action carefully paced over the next five years. I hope in the next few moments to illustrate how the measures contained in the bill reflect each one of these commitments. Before I do that, I think it is important to make a few comments about our economic situation, because this underlies each and every budget.

Canada is in an enviable position. Since balancing the federal budget in 1997, Canada has led the G-7 industrial nations with the best job creation record and the fastest growth in living standards.

Right now I can hear someone calling in their support, Mr. Speaker, so certainly there does seem to be someone who is agreeing with me on that very significant point.

Looking ahead, and based upon the average forecast by economists from the private sector, the real growth in 2005 is expected to be 2.9% of GDP, rising to 3.1% in the 2006. I would note in parenthesis, however, that since the budget has been proclaimed, private sector economists have actually rounded down the GDP growth for 2005 from 2.9% to 2.6%, so it gives us some sense that private sector economists are possibly not as robust as they were when the budget was being made. That of course is a concern to each and every one of us who considers a sound fiscal framework to be the cornerstone of our prosperity.

These forecasts are always subject to risk, including the evolving impact of the rapid rise in the value of our dollar. Canada is probably one of the most global trading nations, if not the most global, and because of that our risks are frequently risks that are outside of our control.

For instance, the principal risk is with the twin U.S. budget and account deficits. These could cause higher interest rates, slower U.S. growth and further depreciation of the American dollar, all leading to slower Canadian growth and some economic adjustment which could in many instances be quite painful for each one of us.

As I said, we do not have control over how the U.S. issues its budget or controls its current account deficit. These are principal risks to the forecasting which are completely outside of our control, similarly with the economy of China and with rising oil prices and things of that nature which are by and large outside the control of our economy.

It is the possibility of future risk that motivates the government's first commitment, and that is to sound financial management, with balanced budgets or better based on prudent fiscal planning. Even after dramatic investments in funding for provinces and territories and further new measures, budget 2005 projects a surplus for the current fiscal year ending March 31, a surplus for the eighth year in a row. That is the longest string of surpluses since 1867 and the founding of the nation.

The budget projects balanced budgets or better over the next five year period. The five year fiscal projection reflects the fact that the vast majority of the commitments it makes extend beyond the traditional two year planning horizon. This has further positioned Canada as a world leader and the only G-7 country to post total government surpluses in each of the past three years and the only nation that can expect to be in surplus in 2005 and in 2006.

Our strong performance has fueled a $60 billion plus reduction in Canada's public debt and a saving of more than $3 billion annually each and every year in debt servicing costs. This has led to Canada having a triple-A credit rating, producing lower interest rates for provinces, cities, businesses and families.

Again as a parenthesis, in my own community of Scarborough—Guildwood what we have noticed is a vacating of a lot of lower-end apartments while people get out and buy homes, because the interest rates are now such that the home which was heretofore unaffordable has become affordable. People are leaving the apartments and moving into their homes because their mortgage payments are the same as or less than their rental payments.

The combination of lower debt and lower interest rates has meant that the share of government revenue going to debt servicing or interest rates has been cut from almost 38¢ of each revenue $1; that is, 38¢ or well over one-third of every $1 was going to service debt. Now we are down to around 19¢. We have shaved it entirely in half. For the provinces, on average that has meant a significant reduction in their debt interest costs as well. Some provinces are down around an average of 12¢ of every revenue $1, and again, these are savings that are passed on to any entity that borrows money.

To sustain these benefits and to position Canada to meet future pressures such as our aging population, the government aims to bring down the debt to 25% of GDP within 10 years.

Balancing budgets and bringing down debt do not happen by accident. They require prudent fiscal planning. For this reason, budget 2005 again sets aside $3 billion in an annual contingency reserve. If not needed to keep our books in balance, these funds will go directly to reduce the debt.

We have also continued to build economic prudence into the budget plan, starting at $1 billion. If not needed, it will be used to invest in other priorities of Canadians.

Fiscal discipline also demands a rigorous approach to delivering value for the taxpayer dollar. That is why the government established the expenditure review committee of cabinet to scrutinize each and every line of government spending.

The committee has identified $11 billion in cumulative savings over the next five years. Almost 90% of that $11 billion comes from greater efficiencies in procurement, property management, service delivery and program administration. These savings have been incorporated in budget 2005 and are being reinvested in core federal programs and services.

The government's second commitment to Canadians is to encourage a productive and growing economy. Canada's current economic progress shows that we are on the right path, but increased prosperity and growth need constant improvements in productivity and our ability to compete in a fast-changing global environment.

Again in parenthesis, we have noticed in the last year some fall off in productivity, which is worrisome. I think it is largely reflected by the rapid appreciation in the Canadian dollar and that has made it very difficult for some businesses to adjust quickly. We can live with a higher Canadian dollar, but it is the haste at which that change occurs which makes it very difficult for businesses to adjust and build into their situation and productivity improvements that keep them competitive.

We face the challenge of a soon to retire baby boom generation followed by a much smaller generation of workers. This means we will no longer be able to automatically rely on labour force growth to boost the economy. It means that the workforce has to be as inclusive as possible, and we need the workforce to be as skilled and productive as possible to beat international competition.

Budget 2005 takes action to meet those challenges. This action starts with the understanding that quality child care and early learning is much more than just merely good social policy. It is also an investment in better productivity and economic success in the years ahead. I will reference this back to when I said that we needed an inclusive workforce. Clearly, men and women, as they raise children and work, need to have the most flexible arrangements possible for raising families.

Bill C-43 would provide for the creation of $700 million trusts for provinces to invest in early learning and child care programs. This amount is the 2004-05, 2005-06 portion of the $5 billion commitment by the federal government for five years to develop a shared early learning and child care initiative in collaboration with the provinces and territories.

We are also taking action to reduce taxes. A competitive tax system makes individuals more prosperous and firms more productive. That is why the federal government has cut taxes each and every year since the budget was first balanced in 1997, including the record five year $100 billion tax cut introduced in the year 2000.

The budget builds on these reductions by committing to increase the basic personal amount of income that all Canadians can earn to $10,000 by the year 2009. This will benefit all taxpayers, but in particular, it will remove 860,000 low income earners from the tax rolls, almost a quarter million of whom will be seniors.

Next, to help Canadians save for retirement, Budget 2005 boosts the overall contribution to the RRSPs and registered pension plans to $22,000 by the year 2010. This especially will benefit those who are entrepreneurs, the self-employed and small businesses, people who have no large pension entity to support them. As well, to expand the investment opportunities for Canadians, the government will remove the 30% foreign property limits, such as shares on RRSPs and pension plans.

Bill C-43 also takes action to maintain a competitive corporate tax environment to stimulate growth and jobs. It proposes to eliminate corporate surtax in 2008. This will benefit businesses, both small and medium sized. By 2010, the government proposes to reduce a 21% general corporate income tax rate to 19%. Even in the face of corporate tax reductions in the U.S., these measures will still maintain a tax rate advantage for Canadian businesses.

Further, a productive and environmentally sustainable economy is only part of the Canadian well-being. Budget 2005 also delivers on the government's fourth commitment to make further investments to secure social foundations. These investments build upon a $41 billion agreement for health care in Canada, which the Prime Minister entered into with the premiers last fall, and the new $33 billion framework for provincial equalization and territorial financing.

For example, the Prime Minister and the territorial first ministers have agreed to work together to develop a comprehensive strategy for the north. The north is entering into a time of unprecedented promise and opportunity, particularly with respect to the economic opportunities relating to oil, gas and diamond development.

Bill C-43 proposes to create a $120 million trust to help the territories meet the goals of the northern strategy, a joint initiative between the Government of Canada and territorial governments aimed at improving the quality of life for northerners.

Budget 2005 also recognizes our debts to seniors. Indeed, the budget makes significant investments across a wide range of policies that matter to seniors. An investment in health care, which was made in the fall, is of most benefit to those who are aging. People use up most of their health care allotment in the latter part of their lives. The health care investment is for us all, but is of particular significance to those who are seniors.

In Bill C-43 the increase in the guaranteed income supplement is a payment of $2.7 billion over five years, with improvements in place in less than two years. This will benefit 1.6 million seniors, the majority of whom are women. The maximum GIS will go up by more than $400 per year for a single senior and almost $700 for a couple.

The third commitment on the government's agenda is in recognition of the fact that a smart economic policy and environmental policy can go hand in hand, improving the quality of life, the health of communities and opportunities for growth. Budget 2005 introduces a $5 billion package of measures over five years to support sustainable environment. These include the new clean fund and a partnership fund to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Bill C-43 proposes to establish a new agency under Environment Canada to manage the $1 billion climate fund which will provide incentives for reduction and removal of greenhouse gases. Moreover, the bill proposes to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act to facilitate the future addition of greenhouse gases to the list of substances under the act. This will allow the Minister of the Environment to regulate emissions and implement the proposed large final emitter regime and emissions trading system.

Bill C-43 also would provide $300 million to the green municipal funds to support local environment projects. Of this amount, $150 million would be used to help communities clean up and redevelop brownfields.

A key element of the environment for Canadians is our cities and communities. Budget 2005 builds on the new deal for communities launched last year by providing municipalities with a growing share of the federal excise tax on gasoline. Bill C-43 proposes to provide initial funding of $600 million for this initiative, the equivalent of 1.5¢ per litre. This will grow to $2 billion a year for additional revenues over five years, delivering again on this government's commitment.

Canada's meeting its domestic needs should not obscure the fact that events like tsunami disaster emphasized that we in live in a global village. For example, when the tsunami struck southeast Asia last December, Canadians were deeply affected by this tragedy. Again in parenthesis, the Sri Lankan community, of which I have the honour to represent in my riding, is deeply affected by this tragedy. Canada responded very generously with an assistance package totalling $425 million.

In true Canadian fashion Canadians responded generously with their personal donations of approximately $200 million to charitable organizations and the government matched that.

Finally, the measures contained in Bill C-43 represent a comprehensive, integrated plan to enhance the well-being of Canadians. Over this period and over this budget, we have delivered on our commitments.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, would the hon. member like to comment on the deductibility for investments?

The Canadian Real Estate Association has met with many members of Parliament and is particularly interested in whether we plan on doing anything with capital gains by not including it in the definition of the expected profitability for investors.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, representatives of the real estate industry were on the Hill yesterday. Regrettably I did not have an opportunity to meet with them and hear their representations, although a meeting had been set up.

Their concern is with respect to deductibility of the costs of property where there is a question of gain. This arises out of a Supreme Court decision when the government took the position that where there was no real prospect of making money on a property and having a capital gain then the deductions would not be deductible.

An example may be a hobby farm where the expenses are being run through it, therefore reducing other income where there is no real prospect that it will make money. Maybe that is a poor example, but it is the only example I can think of off hand. That is the dilemma raised by the representatives of the real estate industry arising out of the case before the Supreme Court.

I look forward to the opportunity to talk further with them to see whether there is something that can be done on that issue. On the face of it, the government's position is that of the decision made by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I found it very interesting to listen to the parliamentary secretary boast about the number of surpluses the government has run over the last number of years. Not once did he mention some of the critical situations facing students, the homeless and low income Canadians. He failed to address the absence in the budget of some initiatives in those areas.

The member talked about the government rolling in surpluses, but he said nothing about students drowning in debt. He failed to mention that there was nothing in the budget nor in the budget implementation act to deal with education, the one program that would give families hope that their children would be able to break through their economic circumstances and build a better future. The one program that would offer some hope of equalizing conditions in the country has been neglected and ignored by the government.

Since we are talking about elections a lot these days, in the last election less than a year ago the Prime Minister stood in Newfoundland and Labrador and said to the world that he was interested in putting $8 billion into education. The world applauded because he was touching on one of the most critical issues facing Canadians today. What has happened in the space of one year? There has been no mention of education since that election campaign. This was another broken promise. The need for access to quality post-secondary education, one of the most critical issues facing this nation, was given no attention.

Why was there nothing in the budget and in the budget implementation act about education when the Prime Minister made such a grandiose promise and offered such hope less than a year ago? Why did the government spurn the remarks and contributions made by students' associations, professors' associations and education associations during the prebudget consultations about the failure of programs like the learning bond, the registered education savings plan and the millennium scholarship fund to address the issue of universal education? Now we learn that cabinet has documents showing these programs have limited success and only provide limited access.

I would like to hear the full goods from the member. I would like to hear the true story about education and what the government plans to do and how fast it intends to act.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Interestingly, Mr. Speaker, I just came from a meeting with the president of the University of Toronto. We had a really interesting and fascinating discussion about the variety of issues that the Government of Canada has taken with respect to research primarily, of which the University of Toronto is a very significant beneficiary. It certainly appreciated not only the contributions to the various foundations which it can access for funding but also the funding of research chairs and a whole variety of issues in the area of post-secondary education.

I do not frankly accept the premise of the hon. member's question with respect to our involvement in post-secondary education. It is profound. It has been significant and it has put the Canadian universities back in the research game. In fact, it has also reversed the brain drain. We now have a brain gain.

The question is twofold. The second question is with respect to student access. The member is right in the superficial analysis of the bill. The budget did not address access issues by students, but I direct her attention to the 2004 budget where we dealt with a number of issues: RESPs, learning bonds, millennium scholarships, and things of that nature that is being objected by the hon. member.

In the spirit of candour, I would say that in some respects those have had an uneven success rate. I know, for instance, my family uses RESPs. That is one of the major ways in which my children will access post-secondary education. I would expect that going forward those issues will be continually evaluated and addressed.

The final point is with respect to homelessness. The draw down on the funds that has been put aside over the last few years has not been as vigorous as we had hoped. I would also point out to the hon. member--